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It is so easy to make people believe you simply because you peppered your information with numbers. Perhaps because most of us do not feel fully comfortable with math, we trust it more. But we absolutely must check the analysis of numbers just as we check everything else. (You do check everything else, don’t you?)

Here’s yet another example of lying with statistics: a survey on the reason why current med students want to become doctors.

The researchers wanted to say that most doctors are in it for the money. So they asked med students to pick the single biggest reason why they applied to med school.

The choices were:

  • To be a leader while enjoying a lucrative career
  • One or more family members are doctors or other healthcare professionals
  • To heal and be of service, while enjoying a lucrative career
  • To heal and be of service, even if it means to volunteer without pay

Only 25 percent of the respondents picked the last choice. The researchers translated this to mean that 75 percent of future physicians are “not intrinsically motivated.”

I’d suggest that 25 percent of future physicians being willing to work for free is amazing, especially considering the costs of 7 years of education. In fact, I would suggest that those students have no idea yet how much it costs to rent an apartment, maintain a car and occasionally eat food.

Do you notice that two of the four choices included the phrase “enjoying a lucrative career” and that earning money was phrased in the most positive way possible?

And did you notice that the opposite choice was phrased negatively, with “even” used to highlight the sacrifice?

Obviously, if you wanted real answers, students would pick from: money; status; to heal people; to make important medical discoveries; to fulfill family wishes; because family/friends are doctors...and so on.

I thought it was very interesting that students could not choose “to heal and be of service” without also choosing either riches or poverty.

And in any case, is there something wrong with a student realizing that they will need to have some way to support themselves during their career???

You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.

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